On Saturday, April 18, TONY Award winner Jessie Mueller (Beautiful, The Mystery of Edwin Drood) will make her Carnegie Hall debut in a special “Family Concert” and sing-along with the Broadway All-Star Chorus. The afternoon will provide a fun and welcoming environment for children, ages 7-12, to sing and dancing along to some of the best musical numbers from the Great White Way. Tickets range from $10-$22.
Under the musical direction of co-host Leslie Stifelman, co-host Thomas Cabaniss and director and choreographer Melissa Rae Mahon (Chicago) audience members will learn music and “moves” from some of the most celebrated musicals of all time including Grease, The Sound of Music, Rent, Les Miserables, and Hairspray. Some will even be invited up on stage to join the sing-along with chorus members including, Haven Burton (Kinky Boots, Violet, Shrek), Lauren Elder (Side Show, Hair), James Harkness (Beautiful, Chicago, The Color Purple, Aida), Carly Hughes (Chicago, Pippin, Beautiful, Ragtime, The Book of Mormon), Robyn Hurder (Nice Work if You Can Get It, Grease, Chicago, The Wedding Singer), Abby Mueller (Kinky Boots), George Salazar (Godspell, Here Lies Love, Spring Awakening) and Dennis Stowe (Aladdin, Annie, Leap of Faith), among others.
Center On The Aisle’s (#COTA) Steve Schonberg had a chance to catch up with Mueller in advance of this exciting concert, as well as chat about life after Beautiful (or is it? There’s a movie in the works!). Check out the conversation, below, and for more information and tickets to the upcoming family concert at Carnegie Hall, visit www.carnegiehall.org.
#COTA: We’re all very excited to hear about the concert at Carnegie Hall! Tell me, how did you get involved with it?
Jessie:Oh, great! Leslie [Stifelman] and her partner Melissa Rae Mahon, who is also directing and choreographing the event, they called my agent and said, “Would she be interested doing this?” The first words I remember from my agent were, “Well, there is this concert in Carnegie Hall” and I was like, “Ah, excuse me? I think they called the wrong person.” I never thought that I would get a chance to sing at Carnegie Hall, but what’s so great about this is it’s an interactive event and it’s for families. I think that kids are going to enjoy it as much as the parents, and it’s really a chance for them to come in to this amazing venue, Carnegie Hall in a fun, relaxing atmosphere.
#COTA: Music has different roles in each family. I was curious, when they asked you to do this concert, as a performer who grew up in a musical family, did it resonate with you as a way to expose children to music in a similar way to how you were as a kid?
Jessie:Yeah, it did. I think that was one of the reasons that Leslie was interested in having me involved, knowing that I came from a family where I was exposed to this stuff at a young age. [To] my parents, it was an important part of growing up… [On the other hand], I always wonder why kids feel removed sometimes from theater or why that wouldn’t be the choice of what they would want to go and experience. I wonder in this day and age if they have the misconception that it’s not as tangible or not as interactive as some of the other things they would like to do, like having control over watching a movie, or watching Netflix, or Tweeting, or being on the phone.
The thing that is so great is it’s actually more connective than any of those things truly, and I think that that’s the great thing about Carnegie Hall is doing something like this, and doing something for kids, and with kids that gets them to interact. I think it’s really, really important for this upcoming generation to appreciate what live theatre is and live music and experiencing live music in a venue like this… No matter what kind of headphones you have or stereo you have, your body does not experience music the way it does with live music. You know what I mean? There is something that you can literally feel in your bones when you’re in a place like Carnegie Hall or any of the wonderful orchestra halls across the country with live music, whether its instruments or voices [that] are being reverberated back to you.
#COTA: Very eloquently said. It’s exciting to know you’re doing this plus so many other projects since leaving the cast of Beautiful. Tell me, what else have you been up to?
Jessie:A lot of sleeping and resting… it’s fun to be here and there. I’m looking forward to doing this [concert] and I just went out and did some concerts with my friend Gary Beckter who I was in Beautiful with. That was a great experience.
#COTA: Sure, and of course you also recently appeared with Ankia Larsen at Birdland, how did that go?
Jessie:Oh, it was great. I had gotten to sing once or twice before at Birdland. I went one night with the Edwin Drood crew back when they were doing that a few years ago with Jim Caruso at [impromptu performance line-up] Cast Party. Everybody was pressuring everyone to go do something. I got called out by Norm Lewis (The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess, Phantom of the Opera). I had to go up and was so nervous… this whole thing [performing], and as exciting it is, is such a challenge for me because I’m much more comfortable being up there in a character than I am as myself. I’ll be learning right along with the children [attending the show this weekend at Carnegie Hall]. It’s a great opportunity for me to challenge myself, too.
#COTA: Speaking of characters, and your TONY-winning performance as Carole King, I’d be remiss not to ask you, what’s the scoop on movie adaptation of Beautiful?
Jessie:Oh, I have no idea. People were emailing me [when it was announced], saying that someone Tweeted it, and there was this article that my friend from high school sent me. He’s like, “So, so!?” I said, “Guys, I know nothing.” Yes, I’m secretly producing it and I will probably be playing all the roles.
#COTA: We can only hope!
Jessie: I think it’s great… I haven’t spoken to any [of the producers] about it yet, but hopefullythey’ll let me audition. Of course, I would love to have an opportunity to be involved but we will see.
#COTA: Sure. Well, I think all of Broadway will be there with pitchforks if you’re not in it.
Jessie:[laughing] Okay, sounds good. I’ll take you up on that.
#COTA: Well, in addition to playing Carole King, you’ll be taking on music by Sara Bareilles in the stage adaptation of the film “Waitress.” You’re sort of living, at least for now, in this singer-songwriter sound and genre. However, having seen you in shows like Nice Work If You Can Get It, and Carousel (with the New York Philharmonic), where you’ve shown off your more “traditional” Broadway sound, I wondered, have you thought about that in a career sense or what you have to do artistically to balance the two sides of your talent?
Jessie:I do think about it now. It wasn’t necessarily a plan going in to any of this. It was the trajectory of what happened so far with my career and my opportunities. I think that what has been so fun about it and being presented with these things that I wasn’t even sure I knew how to do. There’s something intriguing about them. I thought, “Okay, I’ll give it a shot.” I think it’s opened up doors for me at least in expanding my repertoire for things like concerts and I have always loved singer-songwriter type of music. I have always sung it on my own but to be associated with it now is very interesting.